San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District sucks

So today the Valley Air board members voted on an air staff proposal to postpone the central valleys attainment of clean air by 11 years. My lovely wife and I thought this to be a terrible idea, and so we rallied some family and friends to go to the public hearing and voice our concern. The overwhelming majority of citizen speakers expressed severe dissapointment at the lack of options the Valley Air staff have been instructed to offer the Air Board to vote on.

There are many news articles, and editorials available for some background reading: TV Channel 10, Merced SunStar,Modesto Bee

Unfortunatly the plan or SIP was approved by a 9-2 vote.

I was at the public hearing today, and got to speak briefly on the matter. I am posting my full statement below:

Good Day to you all,

As a concerned resident of the Central Valley, I thought it my duty to attend todays meeting and offer the board my counsel and guidance. As you can possibly tell I am not a native Californian. I emmigrated from the United Kingdom 5 years ago. I live in Merced, and work here in Fresno as a software engineer. The valley is my adopted home, and I wish it to remain so for the foreseeable future.

When I meet new people, there is usually an incredulous enquiry as to why I moved to the Central Valley. I find this to be very sad, as the Valley really should be proud of what it has. I certainly didn’t move here for the hot summers, or the dirty air.

The former is something that I have learnt to accept and tolerate, the latter is something I have learnt to loathe and despise. We cannot control the weather, but we can control the air quality.

The number one reason people think it strange to move into the Valley is the poor air quality.

Although I had Asthma when I moved to the valley, I have never been on stronger medications than now. I had not had an Asthma attack in 12 years before I moved here, but I had one within the first 6 months.

I want to thank each and every one of the Air District staff and board members present for recognizing that we have a severe problem that is costing the citizens of the valley billions of dollars a year in health costs and business losses.

I wish to thank the Air District for acknowledging that it is their responsibility to both educate the public about and regulate the problems we face within our unique air basin.

The Air District should be recognized for the good decisions it has made in the past and the good decisions it will make in the future.

The issue at hand today is a fantastic oppurtunity for the Air District to prove to the public that they hold our best interests at heart. The Air District can prove today that care equally about Agriculture, Business, and Citizen’s health.

I fully expect the Air District to realize that submitting a SIP on June 15th that reclassifies the Valley as extreme non-attainment proves none of these things, and indeed would demonstrate a lack of willingness to protect business, agriculture and public health.

On March 8 of this year, Seyed Sadredin said, in regarding the 2007 Ozone Plan:

“In our aggressive pursuit of the earliest possible attainment date for all Valley residents, we have discovered that today’s technology and the promised new technologies on the horizon CANNOT bring about all of the reductions that the Valley needs.”

On this point, as an engineer, I can say Mr. Sadredin is absolutely correct. Technology alone is not able to provide us with clean air. In my opinion, the most important factor for the attainment of clean air is having a will to succeed, and especially a will for making hard decisions. There are decisions available to the Air District that do not rely on future technology, or even any technology at all. These decisions rely solely on the people responsible having the will to make them.

Even if we accept that political will is not the issue, it is purely technological in nature and the “promised new technologies on the horizon” are showing no sign of becoming realities, then surely we are painting an exceptionally bleak picture.

Mr Sadredin continued by saying:

” While disheartening, this dilemma leaves us no choice but to seek the ‘Extreme’ non-attainment designation as allowed for in the federal Clean Air Act.”

The proposed Extreme plan puts a large proportion of emission control attainment into the Black Box, with the expectation that there is a bright technological solution waiting around the corner to assist us. Unfortunately, Mr. Sadredin has already concluded that such a technology is not on the horizon.

Perhaps we should rename the “Black Box” to be “Pandora’s Box”, as we really have no idea what, if anything, is going to come out of it.

What I find disheartening is such defeatism in public officials. I have to believe that Mr. Sadredin’s comments do not echo the same feelings in the other staff and board members of the Air District.

I recently observed a Valley Air board member give a presentation and read an informal statement attributed to Mr Sadredin at a recent public meeting. This statement included a comment regarding how the EPA kept “flipping the rules on us” – referring to the recent cancelling of the 1 hour attainment plan and the delivery of the new 8 hour Ozone plan in 2005.

This peaked my curiosity, and on further investigation I found that Valley Air had indeed known for many years about the possibility of a change in the law. In searching air district records, documents dating back to 2002 stated that the air district is not only fully aware of the potential change, but are expecting it to happen.

The Air District is also pushing to become the “first in the nation” to submit a clean air plan. I commend you on wishing to be one of the only air basins in the nation to stick to the June 15th deadline. However, I firmly believe that all goals chased should have some reward. I have yet to determine what the Central Valley gains by becoming the first in the nation – we certainly do not avoid any penalties from the EPA as these would not apply until 2009. We do not appear to be in line for extra incentive funding by submitting a plan on time.

The only benefit I can see is that the Air District would be able to say that the ACPO kept his word in promising never to miss a deadline.

I submit to the Air District that it is your responsibility and duty to submit a SIP that has the citizens best interests at heart. Satisfying the interests of only 1 or 2 groups is not fulfilling your mandate.

There are other options available other than Extreme. The Air District staff appears to have rushed a proposal through to the board in order to comply with a desire of the ACPO to fulfill a political promise.

Mr Sadredins concluded his remarks of March 8th by saying:

“Although full attainment by 2013 is not possible, the District is committed to doing everything we can to help identify and deploy new technologies needed to accelerate progress towards cleaner air.”

It is clear to me that the current proposal does not fulfill your mandate.

I urge the board to vote down the current proposal and look at all the alternatives. I am only asking you to take the time that has been given to you to by the law, in order for you to consider all ramifications of the proposed plan, and any future plan that could be presented to you.

I am appealing to your sense of reason today not to rush a decision that could cost the valley billions of dollars, and thousands of lives.

Thank you for your time.


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